Disability Studies Minor

Disability will impact everyone at some point in their life; a disability may be present from birth, acquired by an accident or illness, or may be the result of aging. People of every ethnicity, culture, age, gender, nationality, and economic situation are affected by disability. Outside of birth and death, disability is the most common shared human experience. Therefore, the study of disability is the study of what it means to be human.

Disability Studies is an interdisciplinary field that draws upon scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences to understand disability. Disability Studies challenges the view of disability as an individual deficit or defect that can be remedied solely through medical intervention or rehabilitation by "experts" and other service providers. Disability Studies explores models and theories that examine the social, political, cultural, and economic factors that define disability and help determine our personal and collective responses to difference. Disability Studies works to de-stigmatize disease, illness, and impairment and interrogates the concept of normalcy (Society for Disability Studies).

Attitudes towards disability have changed over time and our understanding of disability varies across cultures and contexts. Disability Studies draws upon national and international perspectives, policies, literature, culture, art, and history with the aim of understanding the origins of our current ideas of disability. Disability Studies encourages participation by students with a disability and faculty, and places emphasis on ensuring physical and intellectual access (Society for Disability Studies).

Utah State University’s Disability Studies Minor offers students the opportunity to develop knowledge, skills, and perspectives that will help them understand disability issues in our contemporary world. The Disability Studies Minor is designed to supplement your major field of study, and will give students knowledge and skills that will make them more competitive in the job market.

Minor Requirements

Students must complete three core classes (9 credits) that introduce the core theoretical components of Disability Studies. Students must also complete 9 additional credits of electives that can be tailored to a particular area of interest. A wide range of elective courses have been approved from many USU academic departments. Additionally, a more customized set of electives, including undergraduate research opportunities or directed study, can be arranged based on your interests. Students are required to have a GPA of 3.0 (B) or better in all minor coursework with a minimum grade of C in any individual course accepted for the minor.

Core Classes – 9 credits (must take all three)

View a list of Core and Elective Class requirements

If you have questions, or would like additional information, please contact Mary Ellen Heiner. If you would like to receive regular updates regarding the Disability Studies program at USU, please sign up for our mailing list

Disability Studies Program Updates and FAQ

We are excited to announce the launch of the new Disability Studies minor at USU. This program will build upon USU’s long commitment to supporting disability. Disability Studies is a relatively new field, and only began to emerge in the early 1980s along with other social justice related programs like women’s studies, gender studies, and critical race and ethnicity studies. These fields of study all share a common focus on how our culture shapes identities within structures of inequality and through systems and practices of power and resistance. Like other critical identity studies, Disability Studies is necessarily interdisciplinary, intersectional, and oriented toward social justice. The following FAQ provides more information on the scope, structure, and content of this new program.

What is purpose of the Disability Studies Minor?

The Disability Studies minor provides undergraduates the opportunity to expand their understanding of the complex cultural, social, economic, and political issues affecting people with disabilities. The overall purpose of this program is to provide students with the tools they need to understand and address the underlying societal structures that continue to challenge people with disabilities. Utah State University has a long history of offering a wide range of disability-related courses, and this program will allow you to create a customized interdisciplinary program that is tailored to your interests as they relate to disability issues.

What are some examples of fields of study that complement Disability Studies?

Because disability is one of the most common human experiences, it intersects with almost every field of study. From art to engineering to web design, disability has an impact on them all. Examples of possible areas of study include:

  • History and Disability
  • Literature and Disability
  • Engineering and Disability
  • Sociology and Disability
  • Politics and Disability
  • Architecture and Disability
  • Interior Design and Disability
  • Psychology and Disability
  • Information Technology and Disability
  • Web Accessibility and Disability
  • Art and Disability
  • Landscape Design and Disability
  • Music and Disability
  • Religion and Disability
  • Economics and Disability
  • Business and Disability
  • Human Resource Issues and Disability
  • Healthcare Issues and Disability
  • Public Education and Disability


Will completing the Disability Studies Minor improve my employment prospects and career opportunities?

Students who have completed the Disability Studies Minor are uniquely prepared to address these challenges. They will be familiar with laws, science, philosophy, advocacy, and emerging best practices that serve the disability community. They will have a unique perspective and set of skills making them a valuable part of any work environment that may encounter disability issues.

What are the requirements of the Disability Studies Minor?

Students must complete 18 credits of approved courses to qualify for the Disability Studies Minor. There are 3 required core classes (9 credits), then students must select at least 9 additional credits from elective classes. Undergraduate research opportunities, directed studies, or other courses not currently listed can be used for electives with permission.

What are “core” classes?

There are three core classes required of all participants in the Disability Studies Minor.

  • SPED/REHAB 1010 Disability and Society (offered Fall and Spring)
  • SPED 4500 What is Normal (offered each Spring)
  • SPED 5500 A Community of Disabilities: From Awareness to Action (offered Fall beginning 2021)


What are the requirements for “elective” classes?

A total of 9 credits of electives are required for the minor. There are many electives across many disciplines that have already been identified as acceptable elective credits. Students should meet with the minor advisor, Mary Ellen Heiner, to select courses that will help them develop a disability perspective relevant to their own career goals.

Disability Studies Minor Course Planning Sheet

Fall 2021 – Fall 2023

Core Classes – 9 credits (must take all three)

Course Number





Spring 2022



Spring 2023




Disability and Society (offered two sections -online and face-to-face Logan campus)












SPED 4300

What is Normal: Introduction to Disability Studies







SPED 5500/6500

Interdisciplinary Disability Awareness and Service Learning








Electives are offered through many different academic departments.  Please check with individual departments about the scheduling of the courses you anticipate using for the 9 elective credits required for the Disability Studies Minor.

Can I do independent study or research to meet some of the requirements?

Students are encouraged to engage in independent study or undergraduate research projects addressing disability issues. Students using the directed study/research option usually work with a faculty member. Please contact Mary Ellen Heiner.

Are there any scholarships available for participating in the Disability Studies Minor?

There are not any current scholarships for students in the Disability Studies Minor, although we hope to have some in the next year or two.

What are some online resources where I can learn more about Disability Studies?